Anthropologists tell us that storytelling is fundamental to our existence as humans. Stories enable us to make sense of our world and to share our understanding with others. To control the narrative is to shape our understanding and, consequently, our actions and behaviour. Narratives shape our understanding of why the world is the way it is, how it works and how it might be changed. I wrote here last December about how important stories are; they embody power.
Gorilla Highland Experts is a responsible travel membership service, a club offering unique online resources and events enabling people to enjoy the Gorilla Highlands region shared by Rwanda fully, Uganda and DR Congo — virtually or in-person. Storytelling is the foundation of their work. The experts are “people planning to visit the Gorilla Highlands, people who have already been and want to stay in touch, and people who are just looking for quality relaxation.” Through Gorilla Highlands Experts, they share their enthusiasm d and knowledge of the area with each other and people who have already been and want to stay in touch, and people who are just looking for quality relaxation.
Especially for Rwandans and Ugandans, we have created #GHLocalExperiences — but we also wish to reward expats who have stayed around with the same friendly prices. Last week we had two groups like that: from Italy, Holland, Germany and America. Offers: https://t.co/xTbOSn8lhQ pic.twitter.com/SNkdiM3zvM— Gorilla Highlands Experts (@gorillahi) November 13, 2020
Gorilla Highlands offers experiences for local and international visitors: “all-inclusive trips are a small-scale alternative to a typical African safari, for a traveler who wishes to treat the cultures and environment with respect and learn something new on the way.” Gorilla Highlands Experts has grown out of the Gorilla Highlands Initiative, which has been using tourism as an economic and social development tool since 2011. They seek to use tourism to benefit those at the bottom of the tourism pyramid by empowering them to raise their incomes and be treated with respect. They “want local communities to have the material means to make decisions over their own land, but also to gain the confidence to take matters into own hands. One of the pillars of responsible tourism that lays at the core of what we try to do, is engendering cultural respect between tourists and hosts. We want to boost local pride and confidence.”
They have been reflecting recently on how they feel about ecotourism and sustainability and found them both lacking.
“In the name of sustainability, development organisations have often implemented strategies in poor countries that they think have ecological benefits, but that are detrimental to local communities. Those strategies then often prove to be harmful to the forests and the animals in the long run as well. When the first national park Yellowstone was created in 1872, indigenous people had to move out and make place for tourists and visitors to enjoy the ‘unspoiled nature’. Ironically, the removal of the indigenous population led to an ecosystem imbalance. After hunting was forbidden, the park rangers had to start killing game animals because the population got too high. So the park still needed to be constantly managed by people.
As we choose to focus on responsibility, it reminds us to continuously consider the implications of our actions. To not just follow the dominant discourses on what is considered ecologically sustainable, but to stick around and see what we can do in the long-term, to ’embrace the difficulty’ as we have called it before. It is about positive actions that we can take to help the planet and all its residents, gorillas and humans alike.”
As they point out “a truly responsible form of tourism departs from what problems the local population deals with. And by this we mean what the locals indicate themselves as priorities. It starts from a dialogue, rather than just hopping about and doing what you feel needs to be done.”
Responsible Tourism is about using our industry to address local needs and the international need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and single-use plastic waste which so often reaches our oceans,